iUniverse, 2007. ISBN 978-0-595-46283-4.
Reviewed by Sharon Wildwind
Posted on 02/05/2009
College life, circa 1981. Glendary College, a small-town college in the Appalachian foothills. The girls of Mary Ellen Clemens dormitory, particularly Sara, Emily, and Imogene, who park their possessions in a corner room—they are too self-absorbed to be real roommates—are winding themselves into a frenzy over homecoming, which is two weeks away.
Homecoming will not be a frothy event, full of girlish giggles and preening in prom dresses. Everyone on campus hates everyone else. The football jocks are considered raw meat by the girls, who are desperate to leave college with an engagement ring on their left hand. The prayer groups are praying and singing in a cesspool of sin. The housemother is a passive-aggressive, closet alcoholic. Emily is having it on with a drama professor. Sara knows she has to somehow bring her brother's band—the Sunbursts—back to Glendary intact to play at the homecoming dance. And Imogene is trying to pick her way through the mine fields, hoping to slide through the dorm factions that hate one another; decide if her on-again, off-again relationship with her boyfriend will be on or off by homecoming weekend; and convince her advisor to allow her write her senior honor thesis on the poetry of the band's music instead of on suicidal dead poets.
This is a cautionary tale about what women—particularly women who have trouble finding their own voice—do to themselves and to one another. If you prefer straight-forward plot lines, you may find this book difficult. Each chapter begins with a first-person vignette from one of the characters. Sometimes the speaker tells the reader who they are; sometimes the reader has to guess from a clue embedded in the narrative.
Two things kept me reading. First, the author is a superlative writer, who knows how to put conflict on every page and how to portray the characters' essential vulnerability under the armor of dysfunctional behavior. Second, I kept wondering how the characters' relationships could possibly deteriorate further, but they could and they did.
Linda Gould has a bachelor's degree in English from Western Maryland College and a masters degree in political science from American University in Washington, D. C. This is her second book.
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